Category Archives: Entertainment


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

Spillane Trial Group Wins Affirmance of Securities Fraud Judgment by 9th Cir. BAP (California Farms v. Roberts)

On September 10, 2015 I informed you that the firm won a securities fraud judgment from Bankruptcy Judge Maureen Tighe.  We showed that the defendants induced our client to invest in an organic produce venture through false and reckless statements that the defendants were growing their own produce while suppressing information that they were merely buying produce from third party growers.  These growers all had powers under the Perishable Agricultural Commodities Act (“PACA”) to hold insiders personally liable for unpaid debts for sale of perishable produce.

Our clients’ investment took the form of loans secured by the venture’s assets.  The defendants named our client a manager of the venture.  read more

Spillane Trial Group Wins Retrial in Royalty Action for Estate of Late Sly Stone Manager

Spillane Trial Group won a July 25, 2016 Court of Appeal opinion in favor of the estate of the late Ken Roberts, former manager for Sly Stone.  The appellate court ordered retrial of Roberts’ breach of contract action against BMI for paying royalties assigned to Roberts to the wrong party.

Ken Roberts organized tours for Sly and the Family Stone from 1970 to 1973.  Roberts advanced considerable money to Sly.  Sly asked Roberts to return as his manager in 1976.  To repay Roberts for the money advanced, Sly executed a 1976 assignment of his performance royalties, administered by BMI, to Roberts.  read more

Contracts can Limit Ability to Use Otherwise Freely Available Facts or Ideas

Here in Tinsel Town, I regularly read about lawsuits where the plaintiff claims that his or her screenplay was revealed to someone who turned it into a hit film or show without consent or payment.  Just as regularly, I read that the case ended in judgment for the defense, as the judge granted a motion finding insufficient similarity between the plaintiff’s writing and the film or show.

These rulings are often grounded in a distinction in the law that copyright only protects original expressions but not ideas.  In other words, one cannot copyright the general idea of a mild-mannered person who doubles as a superhero with prodigious powers, but copyright law will protect the writings and images in “Superman” comics and stories.  read more

Spillane Trial Group Obtains Securities Fraud Win for Investment Group

We have handled a number of matters for clients of prominent entertainment lawyer Michael Barnes, named Variety Dealmaker of the Year in 2010 in connection with the Miramax acquisition.  This year, Barnes and an investment group he lead became clients of the firm.  Merely two weeks before trial, we were asked to step in to try a securities fraud action against James Roberts, promoter of a produce venture in which Barnes’ group were the major investors.  The case was tried as an adversary proceeding for non-dischargeability in Roberts’ bankruptcy case.
At trial, we presented compelling evidence that Mr. Roberts was desperate to earn management fees funded by our client’s investments, and that he was willing to procure those investments through lies, concealments and wildly unfounded financial projections.  read more

Anti-SLAPP Motions: a Powerful Tool for Media Defendants

Actor Frank Sivero sued Fox over his claim that “The Simpsons” character “Louie” was based upon Sivero’s character Frankie Carbone in “Goodfellas.” Sivero’s case was thrown out of court by a California state judge. (See “Fox Gets $250M ‘Simpsons’ Lawsuit From ‘Goodfellas’ Actor Tossed.”) No jury heard his claim. Nor was he defeated by a motion for summary judgment, a traditional pretrial motion to dismiss a claim that should be rejected if there is any triable dispute of fact for a jury to resolve. Instead, Sivero’s claim was dismissed pursuant to an “anti-SLAPP” motion, a powerful procedural device that was originally intended to benefit public interest groups, but has become the courtroom weapon of choice for media companies. read more

2 Chainz Likely to Beat Defamation Rap: Defamation Actions can be Problematic

Rapper 2 Chainz was sued in North Carolina court by Christine Chisholm, a woman who claimed she was referred to as a “THOT” (“that ho’ over there”) in a video, posted on YouTube, in which she appeared backstage after a 2 Chainz concert. (See “2 Chainz Sued for Five Million Over ‘THOT’ Video.”) In the video, 2 Chainz asks his rap colleague “Cap 1” “Is this your THOT?” while Ms. Chisholm is waiting in another room, apparently having been invited backstage. She is then invited to approach 2 Chainz, speaks with him for about a minute, at one moment directly speaks into the video camera, and is then asked to leave.   read more

That’s My Name and You Can’t Use It: Trademarks Battles Over Personal Name Marks

There was snickering recently in the blogosphere about efforts by Kylie and Kendall Jenner to register their names as trademarks in relation to various goods and services, including “entertainment in the nature of providing information by means of a global computer network in the fields of entertainment, fashion and pop culture,” trademark-speak for a gossip website. Apparently these sister/models were guests on the Kardashian reality show and have garnered their own spinoff series. The dig was that spoiled teenagers want their names to belong to them and them alone.

There may be excellent philosophical reasons to bemoan the unearned fame of people who garner attention and riches for no reason other than that they are young, attractive and were birthed by famous and wealthy parents. read more

The Snore of the Century: Mayweather-Pacquiao Promoters v. Streaming Services

The promoters of the recent Mayweather-Pacquiao boxing match took one on the chin for raking in big dollars promoting the “Fight of the Century,” which instead was a technically masterful but tedious defensive performance by Mayweather, marred by reports that Pacquiao was fighting with an undisclosed injury. Not content with being knocked on the canvas for the quality of the fight, the promoters are sticking their chins out for another knockdown punch by threatening to sue those who pushed bootlegged streams of the fight, possibly including streaming apps Periscope and Meerkat.

Copyright owners have spent decades and millions of dollars taking technology companies to court over alleged facilitation of infringement through technology, with choppy results. read more

Jay Spillane Delivers Update on Business Arbitration to ProVisors’ Valley LLP Group

“What Business Lawyers Need to Know About Arbitration” was the topic of a December 16, 2014, lunch seminar Jay Spillane delivered to the San Fernando Valley LLP ProVisors affinity group. In the presentation, Jay suggested business lawyers take another look at the “old-school” arbitration clause lawyers have included in contracts for years: “Any disputes arising under or related to this agreement will be resolved by binding arbitration before the American Arbitration Association.” Instead, Jay urged, business lawyers should consider a host of other matters that have been litigated since that now outdated language first came into use. Those issues include the following:

• Scope of matters submitted to arbitration
• Arbitral society to adjudicate claims
• Forum and choice of law
• Single neutral or panel
• Discovery rights
• Timing and conduct of hearing
• Available remedies
• Basis for decision
• Appellate rights

For more information about best practices for business arbitration clauses,  see below:   read more