Thursday, February 28, 2013

RZA Protecting His Neck Against Sampling Theft Allegations

The Wu Tang Clan frontman's royalties were withheld after he was accused of copyright infringement as producer of Kanye West's 2010 song "Dark Fantasy"; now he has filed a lawsuit against the accuser.

RZA, the acclaimed Wu Tang Clan member, record producer and budding filmmaker, is attempting a new offensive tack against those who accuse him of sampling theft.

This week, he filed a lawsuit against JVC Kenwood Holdings, a multinational company whose holdings include Teichiku Entertainment, which is said to be in the business of acquiring rights to musical sound recordings and compositions.

RZA (born Robert Diggs) is upset that the record label Island Def Jam has withheld more than $50,000 in royalties based on the claims that one of Teichiku's sound recordings was illicitly used on Kanye West's 2010 song, "Dark Fantasy," which RZA produced.
As a result, RZA is going to court to get a declaration that "Dark Fantasy" is not an infringement. It's just one of several lawsuits that the RZA has planned on this front.

Sampling theft allegations are becoming increasingly common. Jay-Z, Madonna and Beastie Boys are among the artists in court over pending claims.

According to the latest lawsuit, RZA was notified that "Dark Fantasy" contained an unauthorized sample from "Gincyo Watadori" performed by Meiko Kaji. The defendant demanded compensation.

What happened next, according to RZA's court papers, was that West's label Island Def Jam refused to pay royalties, claiming "that it is entitled to indemnification from plaintiff against defendant's copyright infringement claim."

So RZA is going to court against the accuser in an attempt to show the sampling allegation has no merit. He's represented by Stephen Rothschild and Howard King at King, Holmes, Paterno & Berliner.

King provides more information.

"We see dozens of baseless copyright-infringement claims against our clients every year," he says. "Rather than engaging in costly and fruitless dialogue trying to convince claimants and their contingency lawyers that our clients do not succumb to extortion and settle ridiculous claims, we have decided to commence declaratory relief actions to squash some of these claims and, perhaps, recover our costs of defending same. The RZA complaint is the second one of these we have filed this month, with more to come."

King adds that the claim made by Teichiku Entertainment is that RZA sampled a short piano run.

"RZA did not use Teichiku’s piano run, and it sounds different from the one in 'Dark Fantasy,' " says King. "In fact, it would have been technologically impossible to sample the piano run without the rest of the music in 'Gincyo Watadori,' and the piano run in 'Gincyo' is so simple that the least talented person in the studio could have replayed it had anyone wished to do so."

Last December 2012: Rapper/actor/director/producer RZA of the Wu Tang Clan is facing a lawsuit today from a Dutch singer who claims he didn't properly compensate her for her work.
Thea Van Siejaen says she co-wrote and performed on 14 songs with RZA from 2004 to 2011, including the song "Baby Boy," which was featured in Jet Li's film "Unleashed."


Nasty Union Dispute from Newly Released 'Hobbit' Documents detailed revealed

The previously confidential documents highlight the role Peter Jackson played in opposing what he called the "toxic nonsense" of a unionization effort.

The New Zealand government has released 41 pages of previously confidential documents relating to a 2010 attempt to unionize actors Peter Jackson's The Hobbit. The documents offer an unusual glimpse behind the scenes of a nasty public dispute that ended in a stinging defeat for the local actors union -- and in a stunning outcome for the country’s government, which ended up paying Warner Bros. an additional $25 million in tax incentives and other fees to quell the threat that the production might be moved to another country.

The government also pushed through legislation that effectively makes it impossible to unionize motion picture production in the country.

The document disclosure:   came in response to a Jan. 31 ruling by New Zealand’s ombudsman, a government official, who ordered the release over the objections of Warner Bros.’ New Line unit, director-producer Jackson and two government ministers.
Many of the documents are emails between Jackson and Minister of Economic Development Gerry Brownlee.

In one message, to the country’s attorney general, Jackson and his wife and producing partner, Fran Walsh, describe themselves as “not anti-union” and add that they are “very proud and loyal members of three Hollywood Unions -- the Directors Guild, the Producers Guild and the Writers Guild. We have always supported the Screen Actors Guild.” (The Producers Guild is not actually a union.)

But a couple weeks later, in an Oct. 15, 2010, email to Brownlee, Jackson denounces union organizer Simon Whipp: “He has played you like a fool. Unfortunately, you engaged with a snake, who now feels quite fearless. He is in revenge mode, intent on inflicting as much damage as he can, to our film, to our film industry, to our country.”

Jackson also referred to the unionization effort as “toxic nonsense.”

Complicating the dispute from the start was the fact that the local actors union, NZ Actors Equity, is a subsidiary of an Australian union, the Media, Entertainment & Arts Alliance.

Jackson said, “In the end, this is not about Actors Equity, not is it about The Hobbit. It is about an Australian trade union making a blatant play to take a controlling hand in the NZ film industry -- for their own political and financial gain.”

Left unremarked by Jackson was the fact that Warner Bros. isn’t based in New Zealand, either.

In a statement this week, Jackson said he hoped the document release would “put to rest the unfounded conspiracy theories that sought to characterize these events as a Hollywood studio dictating terms to a sovereign government -- a charge that is as spurious now as it was then.”

That comment isn’t consistent with what played out in 2010, when Prime Minister John Key said that Warners was asking for legislative change and additional money as a condition of keeping the Hobbit shoot in New Zealand.

“I think it’s fair to say on the financial side there’s a fair bit of hardball being played on both sides,” Key said at the time. He added, “We have the capacity to move a little bit, but we don’t have the capacity to write out checks that we can’t afford to cash.
“In the end,” he said then, “money talks in Hollywood. That’s just the way it works.”
In addition, Brownlee said at the time that he would meet with Warners representatives when they arrived in New Zealand in order to “see what their requirements might be.”

Nor was Warner Bros. the only studio pressuring the country’s government. Another released document from 2010 -- a government memo not Hobbit-related -- indicates that Disney “advised Film New Zealand” that if Actors Equity did not change its procedures for responding to requests for visas for foreign actors, “Disney is unlikely to continue with plans to bring future productions to New Zealand.”

The Hobbit unionization effort burst into public view in September 2010. After quieter attempts to resolve matters had gotten nowhere, NZ Actors Equity enlisted the assistance of an international federation of actors unions, whose member unions -- including SAG, AFTRA and U.S. Actors Equity -- slapped a “do not work” alert on the project.

Jackson charged then that the union action risked driving the project out of the country, a stance he reiterated shortly before the film’s world premiere about three months ago in Wellington.

NZAE vp Phil Darkins disagreed. “When virtually every performers union on the planet says, ‘We won’t sign on,’ where on Earth are you going to take your production?” he said at a conference in November.

Nonetheless, the affair ended with Warner Bros. extracting an additional $25 million in incentives and advertising funds from the island nation and securing emergency passage of anti-union legislation, apparently negotiated directly between the government and key Warners executives including New Line president Toby Emmerich and Warner Home Entertainment president Kevin Tsujihara, who becomes Warner Bros. CEO effective March 1.


ESPN Ordered to Pay Dish Network $4.86 Million for Breach of Contract

A jury verdict came after three weeks of trial and one day of jury deliberation in a case over a 2005 licensing agreement.

After a day of deliberation, a federal jury gave a mixed verdict in Dish Network's lawsuit against ESPN for allegedly breaching the terms of a 2005 licensing agreement. Dish has been awarded $4.86 million after prevailing on one of its four breach-of-contract claims.

Dish spent nearly three weeks in a New York federal court attempting to prove that ESPN had violated a "most favored nation" clause in an eight-year licensing agreement. The contractual provision entitled Dish to be given the opportunity of receiving equal treatment on subscriber rates and packaging conditions when ESPN gave Dish's competitors better deals.

Specifically, Dish accused ESPN of allowing Comcast to remove packaging requirements that allowed ESPN Classic to be distributed beyond its most widely-distributed tier; of allowing DirecTV, Verizon and Time Warner Cable to have lower subscription rates on ESPN Deportes; and allowing others a la carte rights on ESPNHD, ESPN Classic, ESPNU and ESPN2.

Additionally, Dish brought a fourth breach of contract claim against ESPN for granting Time Warner Cable the ability to distribute its networks on the Internet without imposing a subscription fee.

Dish had alleged that the damages added up to more than $150 million, but the jury said that a lot less was due in order to make the satellite distributor whole. Dish only won on the claim over ESPN Deportes. Under its original agreement, Dish was obligated to pay a monthly subscriber fee of 35-47 cents for ESPN Deportes between 2007 and 2013, but then TWC got a deal for 8-18 cents and Verizon got a deal for 3 cents.

At trial, Dish presented ESPN as being careless when it came to looking after its contractual obligations and not promptly making "MFN" offers when they were due. Dish also showcased internal ESPN e-mails that calculated how licensing negotiations with other MVPDs impacted the money that was owed to Dish and how to "finesse" the obligations for financial advantage.

On the witness stand, ESPN's executives denied that Dish was robbed of the benefit of making its 2005 agreement and made the case that calculating "MNF" offers was complicated and took time. The ESPN execs said that offers were eventually made to Dish and that the company was credited with the benefit retroactively.

Dish's current carriage deal with ESPN expires in September.

Dish was represented by lead lawyer Barry Ostrager. ESPN was represented by Diane Sullivan.

ESPN said in a statement, "We are gratified that the jury rejected all but one of Dish’s claims and all but $4.8 million of the more than $153 million in damages they were seeking.“


Warner Music Faces Lawsuit Over 'Bonanza' Theme Song

Jay Livingston Music alleges that Warner unilaterally deducted money after an accounting error in Europe and won't substantiate it.

Warner Music is being sued over the theme song from TV's Bonanza. According to a new lawsuit from a legendary songwriter,  the music publishing giant won't substantiate withheld royalties and refuses to allow an audit.

Jay Livingston and Ray Evans were the songwriting duo behind songs like "Whatever Will Be, Will Be (Que Sera, Sera)," "Mona Lisa" and "Silver Bells" that sold over 400 million copies. The two also created theme songs for popular TV shows like Bonanza and Mr. Ed.

In 2003, Jay Livingston Music granted Warner Music the right to administer the international publishing rights to its catalog of musical compositions.

A decade later, the parties are now in court.

According to the complaint filed on Tuesday in Los Angeles Superior Court, the 2003 subpublishing contract entitled Warners to take a 10 percent commission on net income with the rest going to JLM.  The agreement is also said to have required semi-annual statements and allowed an audit.

JLM says that in February 2012, it was notified of an accounting error whereby one or more of Warners' European affiliates had overpaid royalties in the amount of about $137,000.

After the report came, funds were withheld from JLM, which demanded back-up documents to verify the overpayments.

"Defendants initially agreed to produce supporting documentation and to allow Plaintiff to conduct the requested audit," says the lawsuit. "However, when Plaintiff's attorney repeatedly attempted to confirm an actual date for the audit, Defendant was completely unresponsive."

Read the entire complaint here...

JLM, represented by Brian Wolf at Lavely & Singer, is now suing for breach of contract, breach of the covenant of good faith and fair dealing, negligence, accounting and more. As a result of the unilateral deduction, the plaintiff is now demanding a "full, complete and accurate accounting" as well as at least $150,000.

Bonanza Theme Song...


Wednesday, February 27, 2013

Fewer Arrests Reported at This Year's Oscars

One person is arrested at this year's Academy Awards.

Two men were detained Sunday and one of them was arrested, a significant drop from last year's 10 Oscars arrests, the Los Angeles Times reported.

One man, who used a fake press pass, was arrested after he entered a spot at the Dolby Theatre in Hollywood where celebrities were posing for pictures, the Times reported.

Another man was interviewed and released after getting caught on the red carpet, according to the Times report.


Six Arrested in Alleged San Fernando Valley-Based Fraud Ring, 2,000 stolen idenities

According to a 132-count indictment, members of the scheme obtained nearly 2,000 stolen identities.

Federal authorities today arrested six of eight defendants charged in an alleged San Fernando Valley-based fraud ring that used stolen identities to collect nearly $10 million in phony tax refunds.

According to a 132-count indictment, filed this week in Los Angeles federal court, members of the scheme obtained nearly 2,000 stolen identities, many from retired people and residents of homeless shelters, some of whom had not filed federal tax returns in years.

Prosecutors allege the defendants then submitted forms to the Internal Revenue Service under the names of the identity-theft victims. After getting refunds, the defendants took the fraudulently obtained checks to various check cashing companies, which took their own cuts, according to the indictment.

In an effort to hide their activities, the eight used coded language to refer to U.S. Treasury checks, called each other by nicknames, used bogus addresses on their own driver's licenses and had "straw buyers" purchase property, federal prosecutors allege.

"These individuals demonstrated a blatant disregard for the integrity of the United States tax system and caused immeasurable hardship to innocent victims," said Richard Weber, chief of the IRS criminal investigations unit.

Those arrested today are:

-- Ashot Karapetian, 47, of North Hollywood;

-- Suren "Sonny" Gambaryan, 33, of North Hollywood;

-- Artak "Max" Berberyan, 33, of Van Nuys;

-- Vigen "Vic" Tsaturyan, 47, of Sun Valley;

-- Armen "Roman" Berberyan, 33, of Van Nuys; and

-- Arman Zargaryan, 30, of Granada Hills.

Additionally, defendants Akop "Jack" Kantrdzyan, 33, of Sylmar, and David "Little Guy" Samsonyan, 31, of Winnetka, are fugitives, authorities said.

The indictment charges conspiracy, theft of government money, mail fraud, money laundering, aggravated identity theft, and cashing government checks with forged signatures. All eight defendants are charged in the conspiracy count, and each are charged in various mail fraud counts.

Authorities also arrested two others on unrelated charges. Armine Nazaryan, 41, of North Hollywood, was indicted on charges of making false statements to Homeland Security Investigations agents, and Spartak Karapetian, 23, of North Hollywood, son of Ashot Karpetian, was arrested on suspicion of being a felon with a gun, officials said.

Gang of robbers arrested in RAK after Hollywood-style chase at 200kmph

The gang, consisting of four men and a woman, specialised in robbing bank customers.

The Ras Al Khaimah has arrested a gang of Africans for trying to rob a customer of a bank in the emirate on Wednesday morning.

The gang consisted of four men and a woman who wore a wig.

The gang pounced on a customer who had gone to a bank branch to deposit money and tried snatch the money from him. The customer screamed for help as the money fell on the floor of the building.

The branch manager of the bank and staffers came out and caught a member of the gang after much resistance. The others fled, throwing large stones at people chasing them.  They got into a car and sped off at high speed.

Meanwhile, the bank manager informed the police which soon reached the site of the crime.

Ibrahim Rashid Al Shehhi, a retiree from the Army, and Mohammed Saleh Mahmoud joined the chase for the gang who were driving at over 200kmph.

When the tyre of the gang’s car burst, the male gangsters got out of the car and ran into the desert. The woman gangster, who tried to flee with the car, was arrested by the two chasers.

The police then sent foot and vehicle patrols to search for the other gangsters in the desert. Air support was also arranged.

Two members of the gang were found hiding in a bush the desert. Two others were also found hiding among shrubs in the sand.


6 charged after child drinks Drano from sippy cup at Florida meth lab

 A young child remains in critical condition after drinking Drano from a children's cup at a Florida meth lab, authorities said Wednesday.

A total of six people have been charged in connection with the Feb. 20 incident, including the child's 36-year-old father, Jonathan Wayne Glass, of Milton.

The Santa Rosa County Sheriff's Office said the individuals were involved in the production of methamphetamines at an apartment in Milton. Deputies said the child was in the bathroom of the residence where Drano — a common component in the production of meth — was being stored in a child's sippy cup. The unsupervised child drank the chemicals from the cup, causing an immediate reaction.

The child was transported to an area hospital for treatment and remains in critical condition.

Santa Rosa County Police Deputy Rich Aloy said the area has dealt with meth labs since around 2003, but the department has shut down many.

"But this was different, because you had a child hurt," he said. "And they waited half an hour to call the sheriff's office, which may have compounded the child's injuries."

Glass was charged with cruelty toward a child with great bodily harm, and a raft of drug charges, including drug possession without a prescription, drug trafficking and possession of drug paraphernalia. He is being held in the Santa Rosa County Jail without bond.

The child's mother, Victoria Lauren Cain, 25, was charged with child neglect. Debbie Anne Harris, 43; John Quincy Adams, 45; Justin Eric Godwin, 30; and Ronnie Eugene Olson, 39, also are facing drug charges in connection to the alleged meth lab.

James Brown Estate: South Carolina Supreme Court on Settlement

The South Carolina Supreme Court on Wednesday overturned a settlement divvying up the multimillion-dollar estate of James Brown, saying a former attorney general didn't follow the late soul singer's wishes in putting together the deal.

Attorney General Henry McMaster brokered a settlement in 2009 that split Brown's estate, giving nearly half to a charitable trust, a quarter to his widow, Tomi Rae Hynie, and leaving the rest to be split among his adult children.

But the justices ruled that the deal ignored Brown's wishes for most of his money to go to charity. The court also ruled the Godfather of Soul was of sound mind when he made his will before dying of heart failure on Christmas Day 2006 at age 73.

The court sent the estate back to a lower court to be reconsidered.

The justices did agree with the lower court's decision to remove Brown's original trustees. Members of Brown's family said they wanted them gone because the trustees mismanaged the estate until it was almost broke.

The court said it had no idea what the estate was worth, giving an estimate of $5 million to more than $100 million.

The justices harshly criticized McMaster, who stepped in to broker the settlement after the estate floundered in court for years. Under McMaster's deal, a professional manager took control of Brown's assets from the estate's trustees, wiping out crushing debt – more than $20 million Brown had borrowed for a European comeback tour – and opening the way for needy students to receive college scholarships. The plan allowed a financial manager to cut lucrative deals that put Brown's music on national and international commercials for products such as Chanel perfume and Gatorade.

Chief Justice Jean Toal suggested Wednesday that, if the settlement was allowed to stand, it could discourage people from leaving most of their estate to charity for fear their wishes could easily be overturned.

The dispute came to the court after the ousted trustees sued.

"The compromise orchestrated by the AG in this case destroys the estate plan Brown had established in favor of an arrangement overseen virtually exclusively by the AG," giving large sums of money to relatives even though they were given little or no control in the singer's original will, Associate Justice John Kittredge wrote.

The fight over Brown's estate even spilled over into what to do with his body. Family members fought over the remains for more than two months, leaving Brown's body, still inside a gold casket, sitting in cold storage in a funeral home. Brown was eventually buried in Beech Island, S.C., at the home of one of his daughters. The family wanted to turn the home into a shrine for Brown similar to Elvis Presley's Graceland, but that idea has not gotten off the ground.

An attorney for Adele Pope – one of the trustees who appealed – commended the court for its ruling, which he said would more accurately fulfill Brown's wishes.

"James Brown was certainly devoted to the cause of education," James Richardson said. "Today's decision means that the bulk of his fortune will go to the cause of educating needy children."

McMaster, who left office in 2010, did not immediately comment on the ruling. However, he said in 2011 that "the settlement was a very good one for ... the education of the poor children, because there was a danger that they would get nothing."


Bobby Brown Sentenced To 55 Days In Jail

Bobby Brown has been sentenced to 55 days in a Los Angeles jail for his most recent DUI charge.

The 44-year-old singer plead no contest to driving under the influence and to driving on a suspended license, making this is third DUI conviction. In addition to jail time, Brown was sentenced to pay a $500 fine plus penalty assessment, complete an 18-month alcohol program, and was placed on 48 months probation. On the second charge placed on 36 months of summary probation, ordered to pay a $300 fine, and install an ignition interlock device, which prohibits the driver from starting the car if they blow above the legal limit, reports E! News.

Brown was already on probation at the time of his arrest on Oct. 24. The "New Edition" singer was arrested in March on DUI after he was pulled over for driving while using his cellphone. As part of a plea deal Brown entered court ordered rehab, and received probation -- but it didn't seem to do much good.

RadarOnline reported that the singer's friends and family were concerned that his court-ordered stint in rehab for the March arrest didn't make an impact, and were "terrified" that he was going to fall off the wagon again.

“They’re not sure if he was ever serious about conquering his demons and have voiced their concerns," a source told the website at the time.


Styx Lawsuit - We Were CHEATED By Evil Record Co. Plot

The band -- who had major hits like "Lady" and "Come Sail Away" -- filed the lawsuit under its corporation Gelderdisk LTD in Los Angeles County Superior Court Friday, against music giant A&M Records.

In the docs, Styx says A&M has purposefully been shorting the band royalty income earned from digital downloads and ringtones -- and did so by concocting a "phony business model" in order to "avoid its royalty obligations."

Specifically Styx claims for every ONE dollar the band's been paid over the years "it should have been paid, or credited anywhere between TWO and FIVE dollars."

Styx is suing for unspecified damages -- to be proven at trial -- but based on the band's success over the last three decades ... it probably has a pretty big number in mind.

Read more:

Tuesday, February 26, 2013

Weinstein Co. Settles $50 Million 'Escape from Planet Earth' Lawsuit

There's peace in a dispute that labeled Harvey and Bob Weinstein as "a real life version of Bialystock & Bloom" and Tony Leech and Brian Inerfeld as "vindictive Hollywood talent."
                                             A high-profile lawsuit that was particularly nasty

The lawsuit came from writer-director Tony Leech and film producer Brian Inerfeld who alleged that their work on the animation film Escape From Planet Earth was botched.

The plaintiffs brought the lawsuit on the eve of the of the 2011 Oscars, alleging $50 million in damages from "two out-of-control movie executives... who sabotaged what should have been a highly profitable movie through a potent combination of hubris, incompetence, profligate spending, and contempt for contractual obligations."

What's more, Leech and Inerfeld cast Harvey and Bob Weinstein in the complaint filed in New York Supreme Court as "a real life version of Bialystock & Bloom" and accused the pair of paying them $500,000 in "hush money" to keep the dispute quiet before King's Speech took home the Best Picture prize at that year's Oscars.
The Weinsteins hit back.
In a motion to dismiss that was later filed in the case, TWC attacked the plaintiffs' allegations as "little more than the bitter ramblings of vindictive Hollywood 'talent,'" dredging up message board posts allegedly from Inerfeld that promised, "I'm going to crush [Weinstein], move into his house, drive his car, and f*kk his wife, his lawyers' too."
Beyond the vitriol, the case was a rather common breach of contract claim.
Leech and Inerfeld, who created the 2005 Weinstein hit Hoodwinked, signed a deal whereby they allegedly were to receive at least 20% of Escape's adjusted gross profit.

But the film had a turbulent development process, and the plaintiffs claimed that the Weinsteins repeatedly unlocked the script, forcing rewrites at least 17 times, which they say "eviscerated" the movie's budget by keeping 200-plus animators on payroll.

The Weinsteins found new financiers, but at the cost of 25 percent of the film's gross receipts and 100 percent of all foreign gross receipts -- which Leech and Inerfeld believed had came at the expense of their upside. Earlier this month, a judge dismissed claims against the financiers.

As the litigation happened, the Weinsteins hired Cal Brunker to take over as the film's director.

Escape From Planet Earth was somewhat quietly released on February 15th, then savaged by critics and is limping towards earning back its reported $40 million production budget, which likely doesn't count the money that was paid by TWC to the prestigious law firm of Boies, Schiller & Flexner.

See ...  Escape From Planet Earth (2013) Trailer


Penn & Teller Lawsuit on a Magician for Stealing a Trick

The silent half of "Penn & Teller" is pursuing a Dutch entertainer who has posted an alleged copycat illusion on YouTube, but the defendant has a few tricks up his sleeve.

Teller accuses Dutch entertainer Gerard Dogge of ripping off his copyrighted magic piece called Shadows, putting it on YouTube as an illusion entitled The Rose & Her Shadow, and offering to reveal the secrets for $3,050. The litigation promised to help determine the level of protection that magicians have over their tricks, and to prevail, Teller would need to show that his trick is eligible for copyright protection and that Dogge's piece is substantially similar. To do that, he'll first need to perform the hard chore of showing that Shadows is "fixed in a tangible medium of expression from which the work can be performed," as the U.S. Copyright Office requires.

Teller has a head start.
He wrote down the details of his magic trick and registered it with the Copyright Office in 1983. He even illustrated the trick, which shows the petals of a rose being cut in the following manner...

Nevertheless, Dogge has proven to be a difficult defendant -- not because of any great arguments why he shouldn't be liable for copyright infringement and unfair competition under the Lanham Act, but rather because magicians are, well, masters of misdirection.

Earlier this month, U.S. District Judge James Mahan provided a status update and ruled on several motions. One had to do with whether the defendant was properly served papers in the case.

Soon after filing the lawsuit, Teller hired a private investigator and a law firm to locate Dogge. And how did that go?
"To date, defendant has evaded personal service and cannot be located in Belgium, Spain, or in any country in Europe," writes Mahan.

To make matters more interesting, although Dogge has artfully avoided the papers, he's not been silent. In fact, he's provided countless, colorful filings, including one where he taunts, "I will, after being served in the legal way, obey to the Court by taking responsibility, I will defend myself and prove that there was no copyright infringement."

But Dogge's legal chicanery has enjoyed some triumph.
He is currently suing Teller in Belgium for defamation, which prompted Teller to demand an anti-suit injunction. Teller wanted to enjoin Dogge from raising any claims in Belgium, but the judge won't go that far.

"It is true that defendant's defamation suit in Belgium against the plaintiff in this case has a vexatious flavor," writes Judge Mahan. "The vexatious flavor of the Belgian suit alone cannot overcome the fact that no other factor weighs in favor of an anti-suit injunction."

The lawsuits now proceed. Both the one in a Nevada federal court where Teller attempts to prove that Dogge hurt his business by uploading a (now-removed) copycat magic trick to YouTube as well as the one in Belgium where Dogge attempts to show that Teller has hurt his reputation. Hopefully, everyone will show up for trial.


Monday, February 25, 2013

MC Hammer Arrested For Obstructing Officer

Law enforcement officials in Dublin, Calif., said Hammer was in a vehicle with an expired registration and he was not the registered owner.

"After asking Hammer who the registered owner was he became very argumentative and refused to answer," police spokesman Herb Walters told CNN.

Hammer, 50, was then arrested on suspicion of resisting an officer and obstructing an officer in the performance of his duties, according to Walters.

The incident occurred at the Hacienda Crossings shopping center


US court dismisses IFI's appeal against Zuru Toys

Zuru "free to distribute RoboFish" in the US, but IFI says "we are committed to this fight".

A US court has dismissed a legal appeal made by Hexbug creators Innovation First International (IFI) against RoboFish manufacturer Zuru Toys.

The federal district court in Dallas, Texas affirmed by the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals, confirmed the ruling.

Innovation First filed legal action against CVS Caremark earlier this year for selling RoboFish toys.

"There is no legal barrier to the sale of RoboFish in the US," read a press release. "With the case dismissed, Zuru Inc is free to legally market and distribute the popular RoboFish line throughout the country."

Anna Mowbray, COO of Zuru Inc, said: “We are extremely pleased with this ruling as we were confident once the facts were heard that the ruling would be in our favour.

“There has been strong retail and consumer interest in RoboFish, and we look forward to supporting our retail partners throughout the year.”

In a statement sent to ToyNews, Tony Norman, President and CEO of Innovation First International, commented: "Zuru's RoboFish product was developed by Innovation First and its employees, using Innovation First know-how, trade secrets and resources. We are not the first company to have been harmed by Zuru's unlawful trade practices, and we likely won't be the last.

"We are doing everything we can to communicate the situation with our retail partners, and we are on schedule to deliver a superior product at a competitive price in Europe this Fall."

An Innovation First International statement added: "You may hear from Zuru that this is a massive victory. It isn’t. In reality, Zuru has won nothing of substance.

"The ruling only addressed the convenience of the venue (that is, the location) where our claims should be heard. The district court judge had ruled earlier that the matter would be more conveniently heard in China, and the appeals panel decided that the district judge had discretion to make that ruling. This ruling says nothing about the substance of our claims. It just means that Zuru, at least for now, can continue to hide from the US courts.

"We are obviously disappointed with this ruling, but it is only one issue. We are committed to this fight, the appeals are not over, and this is only one part of a much larger battle.

"Our proceedings before the US International Trade Commission remain pending, and the merits of our dispute will be heard there. Zuru can’t dodge the ITC, and neither can any retailer, like CVS, who imports products for Zuru.

"The US Customs Service has issued an exclusion order on Zuru’s RoboFish product, and Customs has seized and impounded multiple shipments. To date, Customs has seized tens of thousands of units. We expect Customs to continue this protective activity, and we will support their ongoing efforts to the best of our ability.


Saturday, February 23, 2013

Kevin Costner Gets Mixed Ruling in 'Robin Hood' Profits Dispute

A judge says the Oscar winner must clarify how Morgan Creek allegedly breached a good-faith covenant and committed fraud against him.

Kevin Costner's attorneys are going to need to work a little harder in a lawsuit that alleges the actor was robbed of profits from the 1991 hit Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves.

A Los Angeles Superior Court judge Friday allowed his breach-of-contract claim against Morgan Creek Productions to move forward but dismissed claims that the studio breached an implied covenant of good faith and fair dealing and committed fraud against him. However, the judge is allowing Costner to revive the claims by amending his complaint.

Costner sued in July over a film that made $390 million in worldwide box office, saying that no participation statements were given to him in 2010 and 2011 and late statements were rendered from 2004 to 2009.

Among other things, Costner's lawsuit also accuses Morgan Creek of hiding money from him by assigning foreign distribution rights on Robin Hood from Morgan Creek to a foreign company owned by Morgan Creek CEO James Robinson. The foreign rights on Robin Hood allegedly were sold as a package, and the lawsuit suggests that Morgan Creek might have participated in a practice that's known in Hollywood as "straight-lining," or allocating the same share of a blanket license fee to every movie in a package, regardless of performance.

On Friday, a judge ruled on the defendant's demurrer.

According to a tentative ruling that was issued before a hearing Friday, the judge says that Costner has "sufficiently pled that the participation statements provided by Defendants were misleading."

The judge agreed with Costner on this point.

However, moving forward, Costner needs to allege more in his lawsuit if damages are going to be anything more than what he is or isn't owed from any contractual breaches on the continued exploitation of Robin Hood.

"While Plaintiff contends Defendant’s deprived Plaintiffs of the benefits of the acting agreements by unfairly allocating the license fees attributable to the Picture, these allegations are not contained in the [First Amended Complaint," says the judge. "Rather, paragraph 18 merely alleges actions taken by Defendant in packaging the Picture in international territories, without stating how these actions 'unfairly frustrate[ed] the agreed common purposes and disappoints the reasonable expectations of the other party thereby depriving that party of the benefits of the agreement.'"

The judge also asks for more details from Costner's side on which statements made by Morgan Creek were misrepresentations and when they happened.


Drugged Driving surpasses Drunken Driving in California - Ambien has been linked to some high-profile accidents and MORE

Drugged driving is on the rise in California and it has surpassed drunken driving. It's been suspected for a while but never quantified just for California until now.

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration found that when looking at California drivers killed in motor-vehicle accidents in 2010, 30 percent tested positive for drugs.

A new Office of Traffic Safety survey of nine cities during Friday and Saturday nights recently concluded more Californians are driving under the influence of drugs than alcohol: more than double, at 14 percent.

"Nearly half had marijuana. That was the drug. And sometimes it was marijuana plus other drugs, or marijuana plus alcohol," said Chris Cochran, Office of Traffic Safety.

Besides illegal drugs, the study also found people had prescription and over-the-counter drugs, which can impair driving.

The sleep aid Ambien has been linked to some high-profile accidents. Low levels of the drug were found in the bloodstream of former U.S. Commerce Secretary John Bryson after a string of collisions in Southern California this summer.

A few weeks later, Kerry Kennedy, daughter of Robert F. Kennedy, crashed north of New York City with the generic for Ambien in her blood.

Neither of those two cases involved alcohol.

Mothers Against Drunk Driving recently added drugged driving to its campaign because of its rise.

"Driving under the influence no longer means just alcohol," said Silas Miers, a program manager with Mother Against Drunk Driving California. "It includes alcohol and drugs and a combination of both. The result and the consequences are really the same. People get arrested or they end up dead."

Those advocating the recreational use of marijuana are not deterred by the report.

The Drug Policy Alliance opposes driving while impaired by pot, but says California's numbers shouldn't prevent efforts to loosen up laws.

"No one should drive under the impairment of anything," said Stephen Gutwillig, deputy executive director of programs, Drug Policy Alliance. "I'm just saying that the risks associated with marijuana and driving are substantially lower than the risks associated with alcohol and with some prescription drugs."

The state will have more concrete numbers in a few years because beginning in 2014, law enforcement will have to start indicating on DUI reports whether the case is related to alcohol, drugs or both.


Friday, February 22, 2013

Utah trooper accused of making bogus 1,500 DUI arrests

During her 10 years as a Utah state trooper, Lisa Steed built a reputation as an officer with a knack for nabbing drunken motorists in a state with a long tradition of tee totaling and some of the nation's strictest liquor laws.

Steed used the uncanny talent — as one supervisor once described it — to garner hundreds of arrests, setting records, earning praise as a rising star and becoming the first woman to become trooper of the year.

Today, however, Steed is out of work, fired from the Utah Highway Patrol, and she — and her former superiors — are facing a lawsuit in which some of those she arrested allege she filed bogus DUI reports.

"If we don't stand up to Lisa Steed or law enforcement, they just pull people over for whatever reason they want," said attorney Michael Studebaker.

Steed declined to comment, but her attorney Greg Skordas said she denies the allegations. She is trying to get her job back.

The people snared by Steed say the arrests disrupted their lives and were costly to resolve.

Steed stopped him because he was wearing a Halloween costume and booked him even though three breathalyzers tests showed no alcohol in his system. Choate said he spent $3,800 and had to take four days off of work to get his DUI charged dismissed.

The 49-page lawsuit includes two defendants, but Studebaker said dozens of others are lined up and willing to tell their stories. He said they are requesting the lawsuit be broadened into a class action lawsuit.

Every one of her DUI stops back to at least 2006 should be under suspicion, he said, adding that could be as many as 1,500 people.

During a ride-along with the newspaper, Steed said it was simply a "numbers game," noting that one in every 10 drivers stopped for a violation is driving impaired. "It's a lot of hard work, but you make a ton of stops, and you're going to run into them," she said.

Steed's career, however, turned. In 2012, while on the stand in a DUI court case, Steed acknowledged purposely leaving her microphone in her patrol car so that superiors wouldn't know she was violating agency policy.

she based most of her arrests on signs of impairment such as dilated pupils and leg and body tremors.
Steed was taken off road patrol in April 2012 and fired in November. She was accused of violating department policies, falsifying police reports and using questionable practices when making DUI arrests.

Romero was stopped after Steed said he was swerving, according to the lawsuit. After Romero said he wasn't drinking, Steed gave him a roadside sobriety test anyway. She booked him for DUI even though his blood alcohol content was 0.00. Charges were dismissed.

Tapia went to pick up her ex-husband, who had been drinking. Steed approached Tapia as she got out of her car at her house, saying Tapia had been speeding, the lawsuit said. Steed said she could smell alcohol, and Tapia told her it was coming from her ex-husband.

Tapia was arrested for a DUI; her ex-husband for public intoxication. Tapia's blood test showed no alcohol. Charges were dropped.


           If you find yourself in this situation call the Law Offices of Jonathan Franklin at 310-273-9600

Celebrities gathered in Bangkok to promote petition to close a loophole sale of elephant tusks.

BANGKOK -- Leonardo DiCaprio is throwing his star power behind an effort to save Africa’s elephants -- via Thailand.

The 38-year-old actor signed a World Wildlife Fund petition:  this week, urging Thailand’s Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra to outlaw the sale of ivory in her country.

"Illegal wildlife trade is the most urgent threat facing species like tigers, rhinos and elephants. These animals are being killed every day to feed an escalating demand for their body parts," DiCaprio wrote on his Facebook page.

In Thailand, elephants are revered as a sacred animal. But the country currently allows ivory harvested from captive Thai elephants to be legally sold in its shops and marketplaces. All ivory for sale in the Kingdom is required by law to be certified by the Thai Provincial Administration Department as having come from legal sources, but critics say the system is rife with corruption and often gamed, and that Thailand has become a global hotbed for the illegal sale of smuggled African elephant tusks.

"Much of the ivory trade goes through Thailand," DiCaprio wrote. "We can help save these beautiful animals. Join me and the World Wildlife Fund and tell Thailand to ban all sales of ivory."

During a WWF-organized press conference at the landmark Central World mall in downtown Bangkok on Thursday, local Thai TV, film and radio talent -- including, Varin Sachdev, Pip Ravit Terdwong, Nampung Natrarika Thampridanant, Note Watcharabul Leesuwan and Egg Busakorn Tantiphana -- all joined the stage to call on Thai citizens to sign the DiCaprio backed petition.

The organizers are hoping to collect one million signatures before presenting the petition to Prime Minister Yingluck at the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (Cites), which will be held in Bangkok on March 3.

More than 400,000 people from Thailand and across the world have signed the petition so far, according to WWF. Other Hollywood names known to have joined the initiative include: Emily VanCamp and Josh Bowman from ABC’s Revenge, Lost’s Ian Somerhalder, actor Ethan Suplee, and Alyssa Milano.


The Associated Press Wins Lawsuit Against Man Who Threatened to Shoot Harvey Weinstein

A judge rules that the media organization had no duty to present the side of the story of Phil Sparks, who was ordered to stay away from the movie mogul and singer Sheryl Crow for three years.

Today's lesson comes from Phil Sparks who sued The Associated Press last November for defamation. Sparks objected to an article that opened, "A judge granted Sheryl Crow a three-year restraining order against a man who acknowledged he threatened to shoot the singer-songwriter and film executive Harvey Weinstein."

The article added that Sparks believed the two owed him $7.5 million. (In later documents, Sparks said he was in the process of suing Crow and Weinstein for two shows he starred in.) The article also quoted a forensic psychiatrist named Dr. David Glaser who testified at a restraining hearing that Sparks was "unambiguously delusional."

Naturally, after Sparks sued for defamation, the AP filed an anti-SLAPP motion, seeking to knock the case out at an early stage because it represented an impingement of the media company's free speech

In defending against the motion, Sparks wrote, "There needs to be a boundary between the Media and the First Amendment, otherwise the Media can hide behind the First Amendment and publish anything that they want regardless if the statements are false, or violate one's civil rights."

We probably wouldn't be writing about this obvious loser of a case if it wasn't for what the judge had to say.

In a tentative order on Friday that grants a special motion to strike, LA Superior Court judge Rolf Treu writes, "To the extent Plaintiff takes issue with Defendant’s failure to report facts that Plaintiff raised during the hearing Defendant is not required to present Plaintiff’s side of his story or his key facts."

The judge also addresses the fact that Sparks claimed Glaser couldn't be relied upon based upon a printout from an internet website allegedly showing Dr. Glaser was sanctioned by the Medical Board of California.

The judge adds, "To the average reader, the substance of judicial proceeding was the issuance of the restraining orders, which was accurately described by Defendant’s article. Defendant establishes that it is entitled to the absolute privilege provided under Civil Code § 47(d)(1) and Plaintiff fails to submit any evidence to challenge the 'fair and true' nature of the article."


Jenni Rivera's son Arrested for Vandalism

Michael Marín Rivera -- the eldest son of late Mexican singer Jenni Rivera -- was arrested in Miami on Thursday for minor acts of vandalism. 

Miami Beach police confirmed that Trinidad Angelo Marín (his real name) was arrested Thursday morning after an anonymous call. The charges imposed for destruction of public property. He allegedly caused between $200 and $1,000 worth of damages. As if the family doesn't have enough to deal with already!

Rivera's family was in town for the Premio Lo Nuestro awards. 

Michael has been arrested in the past, too, for having sex with a minor. However, Michael has a baby girl and his sisters recently described him as a "very good father." Was alcohol is at the root of this young man's arrest. Partying in Miami Beach, plus the pressures of being a new dad, and dealing with the death of his mother, could all have led to his latest missteps.


A "swatting" Prankster in L.A. must have a Death Wish

The latest bogus 911 call to involve a celebrity targeted Dirty Harry himself ... Clint Eastwood.

Law enforcement sources tell TMZ, multiple units rushed to Eastwood's L.A. home this week after a relay service called 911 ... reporting multiple males armed with assault weapons inside the actor's house and people had been shot.

When the officers arrived at the scene, we're told they found nothing wrong ... the standard "swatting" scenario.

Police were unable to determine if anyone was home at the time of the prank.

It's the latest in a long string of similar celebrity "swatting" pranks -- other victims include Ashton Kutcher, Justin Bieber, Miley Cyrus, Simon Cowell, Tom Cruise, the Kardashians, and Chris Brown.

The LAPD is really starting to get pissed too -- because the pranks are a HUGE waste of valuable resources and even put innocent people's lives in danger. As one law enforcement source put it, "The suspects WILL be caught and prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law." One 12-year-old kid has already been charged in connection with some of the calls.


Lindsay Lohan Loses Lawsuit Against Pitbull Over Hit Song

The actress sued after getting mentioned in a rap song, but a judge says that the claim doesn't survive a First Amendment review. Plus, Lohan's lawyer gets sanctioned for plagiarism.

A judge has dropped the hammer on Lindsay Lohan's lawsuit against Pitbull.

The troubled actress sued the hip hop star in 2011 over the song, ""Give Me Everything," which included the line, "So, I'm toptoein', to keep flowin', I got it locked up, like Lindsay Lohan."

Lohan claimed the lyric was a violation of her publicity and publicity rights and caused her emotional distress.

On Thursday, U.S. District Judge Denis Hurley dismiss the lawsuit on Thursday, ruling the song a protected work of art. Additionally, Lohan's lawyer is sanctioned for plagiarism in the lawsuit.

Pitbull, whose real name is Armando Christian Perez, released the song on March 18, 2011.

Lohan sued in November, saying that the song "includes an unwarranted, unauthorized, and unfavorable mention of [her] name and personality, and allusions to [her] physical and mental character."

Judge Hurley responds that the publicity/privacy rights claim, based on a provision of New York Civil Rights law, doesn't apply to works of art, and that the First Amendment affords full protection. The judge also rejects Lohan's argument that the song was commercial rather than expressive in nature.

"The fact that the Song was presumably created and distributed for the purpose of making a profit does not mean that plaintiff's name was used for 'advertising' or 'purposes of trade' within the meaning of the New York Civil Rights Law," writes the judge.

Read the Full Ruling Here...

Putbull's attorneys wanted to sanction the actress for filing a frivolous lawsuit.

Judge Hurley doesn't think that's warranted because there hasn't really ever been much case law addressing the legality of the the use of a name of a public figure in a song. Without such precedent, Lohan couldn't be steered away from an ultimately doomed case. "The Court finds that plaintiff's claims are not so frivolous as to warrant the imposition of sanctions," says the judge.


Second hearing held for Block B and Stardom Entertainment contract dispute case

The two parties had their first hearing about their conflict in January, but no official details had been released about the hearing. However, information about their second hearing has been made public. Neither Block B nor a representative from Stardom Entertainment were present for the hearing, but were represented instead by their lawyers.

Block B’s side stated, “Block B has lost their trust in the label that broke the terms of the contract. They’ve filed for an injunction because if the lawsuit goes long-term, Block B will suffer from a lot of damage. The label did not carry out the profit calculations for over 20 instances that add up to the hundreds of millions (in won). They changed the date of the terms on their own and only partly made the calculations in a hurry after leader Zico submitted proof. But there are still parts that have yet to be calculated. The label has mentioned the daily report for the calculations, but it doesn’t make sense to have left it out by mistake.”

They added, “The label also shifted responsibility of the costs to the parents’ of the members. The label has to pay partly for transportation, outfits, food, lessons, and make up, but the parents of the members were notified and the money was deducted from the profit. Not only so, but things such as airplane fees that the label should be responsible for was also paid for by the members. The members tried to seek out the CEO Cho PD to resolve these issues, but he did not meet with them, and in turn we then had to file for the case.”

However, Stardom Entertainment had their own side of the story. They said, “Some parts of the members’ stance is far different from the truth. There are also parts that seem to be defaming our character. The label trained Block B from 2009 to 2011, and it doesn’t make sense to announce nullification of the contract without requesting rectification. They said that their pay was omitted, but there is no deposit in any of the accounts that we manage, so our side is confused as well.

The judge announced, “The [members] must submit more documents pertaining to the case within two weeks. In cases dealing with injunction, we actually do not accept inquired data. Submit proof that’s in another form, and we will give [Stardom] time (three weeks) to prepare material to defend against their submissions.”