Netflix Wins Suit Against Pablo Escobar’s Girlfriend; James Dean to be Brought Back from the Dead; Internet Service Providers Liable for Illegal Uploads and Downloads; Singapore Retailer Jailed over Devices Illegally Streaming Premier League Matches; Ariana Grande’s $10 Million Fight Against Forever 21 Paused; Chanel West Coast Sued by Sharon Stone Over “Sharon Stoned”; Tencent Wins Copyright Infringement Suit Against NetEase and more.
Netflix Wins Suit Against Pablo Escobar’s Girlfriend
Virginia Vallejo, the Columbian author, whose character was famously portrayed on the Netflix crime drama series chronicling the life of notorious drug lord Pablo Escobar, has lost a copyright suit against Netflix and the show’s producers. Vallejo alleged that the episodes three and four of the show ripped off elements of her 2007 memoir “Amando a Pablo, Odiando a Escobar” (Loving Pablo, Hating Escobar), which narrated details of her relationship with Escobar. The allegedly infringing scenes included a sex scene centred around Escobar’s use of a revolver and a meeting between Escobar and a Colombian guerrilla leader. However, a US federal court ruled that there were significant differences in how the memoir and the show depicted the events, and that “the atmosphere, or overall feel” of the scenes was very different. The only similarities between the show and the memoir, the court ruled, were rooted in factual events, and it held that “[t]hese facts are not protectable. The idea of a sex scene involving a gun is not protectable.”
New Hollywood Film to Digitally Recreate Late Actor James Dean
James Dean, the beloved American actor, is all set to star in the upcoming Hollywood film, Finding Jack. The catch? Dean passed away in 1955. Production company Magic City Films has obtained the rights to digitally recreate the star (using old footage and photos) for the upcoming Vietnam war film, directed by Anton Ernst and Tati Golykh. The Academy Award-nominated VFX company Image Engine Design has been tapped to do the recreation. As can be expected, the announcement was met with fierce backlash from films stars as well as moviegoers. Actors like Chris Evans, of Captain America fame, voiced their displeasure at the news, calling it “shameful”.
Ernst and Golykh defended their choice, claiming they were saddened and confused by the criticism. They refuted the allegation that this was a “marketing gimmick”, saying that they tremendously respect Dean’s legacy, and that this was for Dean fans who would love to see their icon back on screen. This is not the first time that actors and actresses have been digitally manipulated for posthumous performances. Stars Carrie Fisher and Peter Cushing were prominently featured in Star Wars spin off Rogue One—however, they were reprising roles they had already played in previous films in the franchise. The digital recreation of one of the most beloved actors for a brand-new character in a film is a significant departure for the industry, and the debate is unlikely to end soon.
Warner’s Sues Internet Service Provider for Infringement by Subscribers
A motion of objection has been filed by Charter Communications, the owner of a US internet service provider (ISP), against the recommendation of a judge that the ISP could be held liable for copyright infringements by its subscribers. In a complaint filed in March 2019, Warner Bros, the American entertainment company, had claimed that the ISP was aware of the fact that its subscribers “routinely used its networks for illegally downloading and uploading copyrighted works, especially music”, and that Charter was effectively enabling and profiting from the same. Warner further claimed that it had repeatedly notified Charter of such activity and even provided a list of offending subscribers, but Charter had failed to take any action.
Charter moved to dismiss the suit, claiming that it was merely providing internet services, but the judge recommended that the court could deny this motion. In its latest submission, in response to this recommendation, Charter said that its activities were identical to those of every other ISP, and that it earned the same amount of money regardless of legal or illegal use of its services by subscribers. Moreover, Charter claimed that the lawsuit “implausibly presumes that Charter has the practical ability to halt the alleged infringement”. Its argument hinged on the fact that Charter could not practically control the infringement, as termination of internet services to the subscribers would merely spur them to procure access from elsewhere. Charter warned that a finding against it would open floodgates for massive liability against ISPs merely for providing internet access. Either way, this case has the potential to set an important precedent in an industry grappling with increasing cases and modes of infringement, with legislation struggling to keep up with the ever-changing face of technology.
Singapore Court Jails Retailer over Devices Illegally Streaming Premier League Matches
In a victory for the Premier League, the top-tier English football league, a Singapore-based electronics retailer was convicted for selling illegal streaming devices—a verdict which the Premier League termed as a “landmark case”. The retailer, Synnex Trading, was selling Android TV boxes which, though marketed as legal, enabled users to view illegal broadcasts of Premier League football matches, as well as entertainment content such as films and TV shows, and other live sports. The operators were found guilty of four criminal charges of copyright infringement, and handed a sentence of three months in jail and a fine of SGD 166,200 ($122,518).
Forever 21 Bankruptcy Puts Ariana Grande’s $10 Million Suit on Hold
American pop sensation Ariana Grande’s $10 million-plus lawsuit against fashion retailer Forever 21 has been put on hold for now, in light of the latter’s ongoing bankruptcy proceedings. The singer had filed the trademark and copyright infringement and right of publicity lawsuit accusing Forever 21 of hiring a “lookalike model” and using marketing images and videos that misappropriated her name, image, likeness, and music, to create the perception of Grande’s endorsement of the retailer’s brand. However, considering Forever 21’s bankruptcy proceedings, a New York federal court confirmed an automatic stay on Grande’s suit. This now means that the matter will move to the bankruptcy court, where Grande will become an “ordinary unsecured creditor” of Forever 21, along with employees, bond holders, and service providers that have not been paid.
The retailer’s liability to Grande and the extent thereof will have to be decided by the bankruptcy court. It is, however, common in cases of this manner for the parties to reach a settlement, according to Edward Morrison, a bankruptcy law expert and professor at Columbia Law School, and the monetary amount so agreed would be treated like the claim of any other unsecured creditor. Since secured debts are prioritised over unsecured debt, Morrison says that Grande can likely expect to receive “as little as 20 percent” of the settlement amount.
Sharon Stone Sues Singer for the Song “Sharon Stoned”
American actress Sharon Stone has sued rapper Chelsea Dudley, popularly known by her stage name Chanel West Coast, over the latter’s song that is titled after the actress, the lyrics of which even include repeated references to her. Stone has also been affronted by the video accompanying the song, which invokes the actress’ likeness and “recreates” popular scenes from her movies. The lawsuit claims that by using Stone’s name and image, Dudley has aimed to capitalise on the actress’ “extraordinary level of popularity and fame”. According to the lawsuit, the song, titled Sharon Stoned, repeats “Sharon Stone” thirty-three times and “Sharon” ninety-nine times—with more than a quarter of the song consisting solely of the rapper repeating Stone’s name. The video, where Dudley dresses up like Stone, features a likeness to the actress’ scenes in the movies Basic Instinct and Casino.
The lawsuit is filed on the grounds of unfair competition, claiming that a perception of endorsement and a false association between the actress and the rapper had been created, and that the song violated Stone’s right of publicity for the commercial exploitation of the rapper. Stone has sought an injunction requiring Dudley to refrain from using the actress’ name, image, and likeness without her consent, and has claimed punitive damages in addition to a share of the profits earned by the rapper from the song and video.
Tencent Wins Copyright Infringement Suit Against NetEase
NetEase, a Chinese Internet technology company, has been fined 850,000 yuan (approximately USD 121,000) over copyright infringement of almost 180 songs by popular Taiwanese singer Jay Chou, after its licensing contract with Tencent Music Entertainment ended. From 2015 to 2017, NetEase had been granted a license by Tencent Music, a Chinese music streaming service developer over 800 songs of Chou, who has sold more than 30 million records in the past two decades. The deal lapsed in 2017 owing to a new policy being implemented by Tencent, but NetEase continued to use Chou’s songs, and were promptly sued by Tencent, who emerged victorious in the Chinese court.
Tencent is currently making headlines as China’s State Administration of Market Regulation investigation of Tencent’s deals with Warner Music, Universal Music Group, and Sony Music Entertainment is underway, over certain antitrust allegations, despite the same agency having approved those deals earlier this year.
Authored and compiled by Neharika Vhatkar (Associate, BananaIP Counsels) and Param Gupta (Legal Intern)
The Entertainment Law News Bulletin is brought to you jointly by the Entertainment Law and Consulting/Strategy Divisions of BananaIP Counsels, a Top IP Firm in India. If you have any questions, or need any clarifications, please write to [email protected] with the subject: Ent Law News.
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