BLACK WIDOW ASSAULTS NEW STUDIO VERTICAL INTEGRATION

Scarlett Johansson, who has repeatedly played Marvel’s Avenger character “Black Widow,” has sued Disney for breaching the promise in her contract to play in its new film, entitled “Black Widow,” that Disney would give the film a “wide theatrical release.”  Johansson was promised generous box office bonuses.  Instead, Disney released the film simultaneously in theaters and on its new streaming subscription service, Disney+.

The advent of studio-owned streaming opens a new front in a long history of litigation between talent and studios over how entertainment revenues are shared, particularly where the sharing is impacted by new technology and “vertical integration,” consolidation within major corporations of the means of bringing entertainment to consumers. read more

Zoomigation: Processing Civil Disputes in a Lockdown World

Resolving civil disputes in court used to involve a regular series of trips to tall office buildings and courthouses where we all sat close and breathed on one another to take depositions, mediate disputes, appear at hearings and try cases.  Now that we are kicked out of the buildings, must the dispute resolution process grind to a halt?  No, while the “jury is out” on the the conduct of jury trials, much of what we do other than jury trials can be Zoom-ized. 

Here is my report card on resolving civil disputes from one’s living room: “Zoomigation.”

Mediations: A.  In nearly all civil business disputes parties are ordered to attend mediation, a half-day or day devoted to settlement.  read more

A SIMPLE VIEW OF MUSIC COPYRIGHT INFRINGEMENT

The legal news wires are “rocking” with headlines in music copyright infringement cases.  The Ninth Circuit, sitting en banc, found for Led Zeppelin in the “Stairway to Heaven” litigation and euthanized the “inverse ratio rule.”  In a connected world of nearly universal access to copyrighted works, a plaintiff must show real plagiarism, not merely plausible similarities.  

Soon thereafter Judge Snyder threw out the jury’s verdict that Katy Perry’s “Dark Horse” copied a bass ostinato from Christian rapper Flame’s “Joyful Noise.”  

For copyright lawyers this news creates the sort of excitement that NFL fans experience over a tie in the last two minutes of the Super Bowl.  read more

SPILLANE WINS NINTH CIRCUIT AFFIRMANCE OF SECURITIES FRAUD JUDGMENT

On May 15, 2019 the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals affirmed a Bankruptcy Appellate Panel decision affirming a Judgment obtained by Spillane Law Group for California Farms Investors, LLC for securities fraud.

Jay Spillane tried the underlying action, California Farms Investors, LLC v. James Roberts, in the United States Bankruptcy Court for the Central District of California.  The defendant promoted an organic lettuce venture through false and misleading statements and without disclosing that the venture was not growing its own lettuce.  California Farms Investors invested $825,000 in the form of secured notes.  The venture purchased lettuce from vendors with rights under the Perishable Agricultural Commodities Act (“PACA”), including the right to hold insiders of entities purchasing agricultural product personally liable for the purchases.  read more

THE LOST ART OF BUSINESS JURY TRIALS: WINNOW EVIDENCE AND PRE-TRY KEY THEMES

Trying cases is a lost art in the business world.  Supposedly 95% of business cases settle prior to trial.  That may be so, because I consider 95% of my business law colleagues to be litigators, not trial lawyers: those who exclusively use pleadings, discovery and motions to posture a case for settlement and who have little to no trial experience. 

If a reasonable settlement can be achieved, I advise my clients to take it.  Trying cases is expensive and uncertain.  But if you’re not eager and able to try the case if necessary, how are you going to get the best settlements?  read more